Seeing photographs that Mike posted of his ride through Idaho and Oregon sent a strange emotion in me that I had never felt before. The pines, the oaks, the 14,000 foot mountain ranges, and with nary a civilization in sight, suddenly felt like home to me.
Despite my best efforts to convince myself that I no longer have a place to call home, I still feel the West drawing me back to its wide open spaces, it's drier climate, and the smell of fresh air.
It's like that old saying, "You don't know what you have until you lose it."
On the eastern side of the Mississippi River, everything seems to change. People are different. Culture is different.
Even the roadways seem different.
People often referred to me as "the human GPS", because I've been able to memorize routes, turns, and where things are. But in the East, I've failed to do that. I think it's because nothing makes sense out here.
For example, in New Jersey, along Highway 18, you can't make left turns. In order to take a left off the highway, you have to turn right, find the loop that takes you back to Highway 18, and then go across it. You figure the Highway is designed that way to increase traffic flow, yet Highway 18 is still nightmarish traffic jam during the day.
Road signs are poorly marked within the Eastern States. Often, I miss the road I'm supposed to turn down because the street sign is so small, I can't read it until I've passed it by. Road names change far more often in the East than they do in the West. What shows on Google Maps with one name, was already renamed to something else.
And I can't believe how expensive and how numerous toll roads are. Each state has toll booths strategically placed so that you can't avoid them, and it's too much out of the way to go around them. In Baltimore, every bridge and tunnel is tolled, and then they toll the Interstates again when you leave the city.
I thought I had the State of Maryland beat when I avoided the I-95 toll north of the Susquehanna River, by taking the US-40 instead, through Havre De Grace. But nope, they have that tolled up too.
What really irked me about the tolls, is that they charged each motorcycle separately. So for example, the the $8.00 a vehicle toll on the I-95 at the Susquehanna River, was actually $16.00 for the two of us. I mean, both bikes are still four wheels and two people, why can't that be just one toll?
When Sash and I rode from Baltimore to New Brunswick, NJ, I tried to avoid the tolls. I looked at the map and plotted a route that avoided toll booths and turnpikes. Unfortunately, it meant going through a lot of stop lights, and rush-hour traffic through Philadelphia. It was a very long ride, and all it did was make Sash's body ache even more, which made me feel ashamed for trying to stick it to the Man.
And I suppose folks in the East are used to it, and that they consider it something to be thankful for.
Yeah, I know that there are toll roads in the west, but they're still mostly privatized highways, not government owned. I don't seem to mind paying a toll as long as my taxes are not already paying for it. And I like the way California handled the Coronado Bay Bridge and the Vincent Thomas Bridge, removing the tolls after they earned enough money to offset their construction.
I guess the East has found a way to capitalize on its traffic congestion.
It's like how lawmakers keep wanting increase surcharges on cigarettes. Once you're hooked on that nicotine, politicians can milk you dry, and it's not easy for you to stop smoking.
Now I understand why so many Easterners have moved West.